Book Review: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Content Warnings: Discrimination, sexual harassment & abuse, illness, natural disasters
Synopsis: From limited career progression to queuing for ages in the ladies’ loos, there are some struggles that women across the world have resigned themselves to. But what if it didn’t have to be like that?
In this collection of case studies covering cities, the workplace, hospitals, disaster zones and beyond, Caroline Criado Perez reveals how, in a modern society that revolves around data, women are being systematically excluded.
Invisible Women was the Bristol Girl Book Groups’ pick for our non-fiction month, a theme that I was enthusiastic about as I’ve been trying to read more non-fiction this year. The author has a background in activism (she helped get a woman on banknotes!) and is clearly passionate about this under-researched area.
I was immediately intrigued and voted for this book on our poll, delighted when it came out on top. This brought to an end a long-standing tradition of me championing the underdog at the bottom of the list. Invisible Women was worth sacrificing my cool, peer-pressure-immune, outside-the-mainstream reputation for!
The content of this book is relevant and made me think differently about the world. It is an invaluable tool in the armoury of any feminist looking to fortify her arguments. I couldn’t stop talking about it, wanting to share the facts I discovered with friends and family.
This ability to initiate discussion is part of what makes Invisible Women a powerful force for change. Here are some of the most shocking facts we picked out at the book group:
Women’s unpaid care work contributes an estimated $10 trillion to annual global GDP.
Car companies frequently use female crash test dummies in the passenger seat only, because the male driver/female passenger stereotype is so pervasive.
If women have a heart attack, they are more likely to die from it than men because they often don’t exhibit ‘typical’ (i.e. male) symptoms, meaning diagnosis takes too long.
I found that the chapters within Invisible Women could be a little statistic-overload. This is understandable given the inevitable hostility that feminist arguments are frequently faced with. Perez seeks to hammer all possible counter-arguments before they even surface, like a data-driven game of Whack-a-Mole.
Although the book gives a voice to a spectrum of women, I wanted to get to know them a little better and feel a degree of connection. I would have liked the case-studies to be more in-depth; perhaps this would have helped to bring out the humanity behind the numbers.
Perez’s authorial voice is detached for the most part, but I loved the moments of sarcastic humour that slipped through these walls of objectivity!
“You’ve played games as a blue hedgehog. As a cybernetically augmented space marine. As a sodding dragon-tamer… but the idea that women can be protagonists with an inner life and an active nature is somehow beyond your imaginative capacities?”
“Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men: they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.”
~ Simone de Beauvoir
Made Me Think: Invisible Women does touch on particular issues faced by women of colour and working-class women. However, there is little LGBTQIA+ representation. In particular, I was very surprised that no mention was made of the fact that many people have a more fluid understanding of gender than this book encompasses.
If there is a big data gap leading to the neglect of women’s experiences, surely this gap must be even larger for non-binary and transgender people? In order for data to truly reflect the society it is supposed to represent, this is something that needs to be addressed.
What Bristol Girls Thought:
I asked the Bristol Girl Book Group for their thoughts on Invisible Women:
It was pretty much an all-round thumbs-up for Invisible Women and it gave us so much to discuss - it’s the perfect book club book!
Firstly, it’s worth noting that others challenged my opinion that the book is too statistic-heavy. Numerous members liked having so much evidence to back up the arguments made. Perhaps my intense dislike of anything resembling maths or science made me unfairly prejudiced!
Some of us felt that more recommendations for how change can be implemented would have been helpful. However, we concluded that the first stage of solving discrimination is to make people aware of its existence. Invisible Women is a powerful book that makes the gender data gap impossible to ignore.
Read If: You are looking for a book to fortify your feminism!
You can buy your own copy of the book here! Let us know what you thought? Leave a comment below.
Written By: Florence Edwards